By Ruth Hollis, Chief Executive, Spirit of 2012
This weekend was a bittersweet moment for us at Spirit of 2012 as it was the last Great Get Together weekend that Spirit funded. Working together since 2019, we have been hugely proud of our partnership and our support in promoting the ‘more in common’ message, inspired by Jo’s maiden speech, across the UK. Spirit’s purpose is to use events and volunteering as a way to increase wellbeing and belonging for both people and their communities, so the strategic fit between the two organisations was crystal clear from day one.
In 2019, The Jo Cox Foundation was one of three organisations to take part in Moment to Movement, a project looking at how events – as moments in time that bring different people together around a common theme – can create movements for longer-lasting change. Their experience of how communities can be brought together around that central message of people having more in common than that which divides them was vital in mapping out the journey from a one-off moment of community connection to a sustainable movement for change. We were particularly interested in how a big national moment is interpreted and delivered on a local level.
And to help propagate community events, we tapped into an existing network, supporting our grant holders with small pots of funding to hold their own Great Get Togethers which resulted in 26 Great Get Together events including Tea-20, a series of events held by Breaking Boundaries, our funded project with Youth Sport Trust and Sporting Equals, using cricket as a means of bringing people together. One of the very special things about the Great Get Togethers is that they are flexible enough to be built around the community and its needs, there is no one-size fits all.
That summer I attended a fantastic Tea-20 Great Get Together in Slough – organised by the local authority and Breaking Boundaries – that enabled people from across Slough, particularly families, to come together with food, music and cricket-themed games in a local park. People mixed with other people that they’d never met, their children enjoyed games together, they shared food and over the course of just one day, you could see the connections forming and strengthening. The response from participants was overwhelmingly positive, with many asking how they could continue to be involved.
In January 2020 the Spirit of 2012 Board agreed a three-year £1m partnership grant to support the Great Get Together and More in Common Network work ‘for a society of stronger, happier communities where everyone has a sense of identity and belonging, and in which we are proud of our diversity and the things we have in common.’
The specific aims of the grants were to:
- use events as catalysts for social change;
- involve everyone in community-led activity with a focus on engaging those community members that might be left behind;
- tackle loneliness and build stronger communities;
- evaluate and test approaches to community wellbeing;
- build on the findings of Moment to Movement research they are contributing to;
- work with the Community and Integration Network to further develop their approach to improving social cohesion.
Of course, before we could get to the first Great Get Together weekend in June 2020 the world changed dramatically, and social mixing, the very essence of the Great Get Together, was no longer possible. Just at the point we most needed to be able to bring people together to connect and bridge divides, we couldn’t.
We have been incredibly impressed with how the team pivoted to bring people together online and focus on the Great Winter Get Together as another opportunity particularly to address loneliness, often exacerbated by Covid, through connection. Despite the challenges over the last three years the team has managed to:
- Support organisers to run a reconstructed virtual or socially-distanced Great Get Together in 2020 in response to people’s desire to connect with their local communities during the pandemic. As a result, 74% of Great Get Together organisers reported that their event brought together people who do not usually connect.
- Increase participation each year, with 38% of organisers getting involved in 2021 for the first time. 90% of all organisers said that they felt confident organising inclusive community events after their Great Get Together.
- Achieve an increase in wellbeing, with 92% of attendees of the 2022 Great Get Together reporting that it positively affected their mental health and wellbeing. This increased to 97% of people at the 2023 Great Winter Get Together.
- Build numerous partnerships, including creating the Great Walk Together with Refugee Week, which connects with refugees with their local communities.
- Grow further evidence to support how community events can help decrease loneliness and support community cohesion. In their 2022 impact report, it was found that 71% of participants felt less lonely and 93% of participants feel more connected to their neighbours.
- Run two Great Winter Get Togethers in January 2022 and 2023, in addition to three Great Get Togethers in June. The most recent impact report for the 2023 Great Get Together shows how these events can plant a seed in encouraging people to become more active in their communities, with a 31% increase in volunteering for local events.
While we didn’t originally intend to still be together this summer, we are delighted that we are able to support this year’s Great Get Together as our final tranche of funding, and look forward to sharing the full evaluation from the partnership later this year.
To find out more about the work of Spirit of 2012, visit www.spiritof2012.org.uk